YUCCA MOUNTAIN SILLINESS



Preparing my Sunday (May 11) column on the April 26 Nevada state Republican convention, I was tempted to digress into the silliness of every little state wanting its own presidential primary or caucus, these days.

There wasn’t room, of course.

If you need further evidence of the extent to which our presidency has transformed into an elected monarchy, compare this to the kind of heady fuss and fanfare that used to accompany a visit to some lowly British seaport by Queen Victoria and her retinue, complete with formal dinners, little girls singing songs, the passing around of keys orbs and scepters, and the issuance of appropriate historical medals.

One goal, we’re told, is to get the candidates to address “local issues.” This is silly. Any properly financed candidate has plenty of advisors to warn him or her that “Here in Iowa today, you have to promise them good strong prices for corn and grain. But let me explain how we word it so tomorrow you can get away with telling the feed lot operators in Illinois that you’re going to actually hold feed prices DOWN ...”

The favorite reporter’s “local issue” in Nevada is Yucca Mountain, a federal boondoggle which has been favored by the state’s political leadership since it was first proposed, though the polls tell them they have to pretend otherwise, nowadays.

(It’s always been favored — though less openly, now — because it means federal jobs and money, and follows in the tradition of “doing our patriotic duty for the nation,” just like the Test Site and Nellis Air Force Base. This is the town, after all, that used to peddle postcards of mushrooms clouds visible from The Strip -- feel free to send me your extras for my collection -- and where the laundries once had names like “Atomic Cleaners.” If our politicians really oppose Yucca Mountain, why haven’t they filed suit at the Supreme Court, asking the court to declare the federals don’t own that land or any other land in Nevada — possibly excepting the sites of a few post offices — because they’ve never purchased said sites “by the consent of the Legislature of the state in which the same shall be,” as required in Article Section I, Section 8 of the Constitution, further holding that no promise issued by the TERRITORIAL Legislature to not challenge federal land holdings can be binding on the current STATE Legislature, under the doctrine that all states enter the union on an equal footing? The last time the state filed a federal lawsuit against Yucca Mountain, then-Attorney General Brian Sandoval assured me, in front of witnesses, that that argument “will be in there.” It wasn’t.)

Candidates know they can’t touch down at McCarran Field and say “No nuke dump, ever,” since voters in the far more populous bailiwicks of Illinois, New York, and southern New England would promptly demand to know where the heck their spent fuel rods are going. Nor would it make much sense to fly all the way out here just to alienate the locals by saying, “Of course we’re going to dump our poison in the middle of the stinking Nevada desert. Where did you think we were going to put it — Philadelphia?”

So the carefully coached candidates vow “There won’t be any repository here unless and until it can be proven safe by SOUND SCIENCE!”

Just like abortions in America are now “safe, legal, and rare.”

In fact, popular opposition to Yucca Mountain among Nevadans is a mile wide and an inch deep. Nevada voters would OK a nuke dump at Yucca Mountain in a heartbeat if they were promised lifetime exemptions from the federal income tax, or even a $2,000 annual check, like the Alaskans get for putting up with the pipeline.

(If they were smart, they'd also demand an option to take title to the stuff in future, when reprocessing becomes profitable.)

So why go through the motions of bringing candidates here to “answer the tough questions” on such non-issues?

Did you know, by the way, that the Colorado River as it flows past Las Vegas -- the main source of our local drinking water -- is one of the most naturally radioactive rivers in the world, due to the uranium ore deposits it crosses in northern Arizona? And that the Air Force won’t deny they store nuclear weapons at Nellis Air Force Base ... INSIDE Las Vegas?